Driving innovation at Fidelity Investments

John Dix

When we get to the pilot stage we need to have a use case that makes sense. So we'll look at something like digital currencies or mobile wallets, and it's the job of the researcher to say at the end of the research phase whether they recommend doing a pilot. If so, what is it? And then prioritize a set of use cases or scenarios that they think might make sense. 

We look at big themes and within those themes. So as an example, in the past few years mobile, social, cloud, big data, pervasive video have been really big themes. Now we're adding on top of that wearable computing, artificial intelligence, including digital assistants and gamification of content to drive engagement. With the latter, for example, we might consider using a game-like interface to teach people how to do asset allocation, or on the enterprise side, use gamification for training modules. So we typically start with a team connected to a use case and that's where the development agenda emanates from. 

How about big questions about things like cloud and use of white box devices? 

I also report to our CIO, as does the enterprise infrastructure group. All of the CIOs meet every Wednesday for three hours to coordinate agendas and talk about topics, and I lead some of the future-facing strategy discussions. So, as an example, we would talk about cloud computing. What's our compute strategy moving forward? How do we see that? Or talk about storage, or DevOps as a model, or Platform-as-a-Service. 

And then we typically set up a team that might have a CIO from enterprise infrastructure who could primarily sponsor that and we'll put FCAT researchers on that team to help do the external research, to bring in companies to talk to, and then work with that team to come up with the future-facing strategy. 

All the business units have to be part of that process, but the enterprise guys have huge day jobs. They're running big development operations or big infrastructure operations so in some ways we supplement them with people who can spend 50 hours a week doing an architectural review and writing a white paper.

Can you talk about where you folks stand in terms of adopting technologies like cloud?

We have many things we're always going to hold very near and dear to our hearts, and, as you might have seen, we just opened a new data center in Omaha, Nebraska, and I think we're always going to have data centers. Always is a long time, but for the foreseeable future. But Fidelity Labs, as an example, is hosted in a public cloud. We have a hybrid strategy. We use public cloud where it makes sense and proprietary data centers where they make sense. Over time "where it makes sense" changes as those capabilities get better and security protocols get better. So it's an evolving model for us.

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